|Back to the lab: Students conduct summer research
RELEASED: July 29, 2004
DANVILLE, KYCentre students are hard at work in the chemistry labs this summer collaborating with their professors. The students' researchon a variety of activitieswill help them gain experience in the lab as well as learn how to prepare professional journal articles.
Joshua Abbott and Ben Angel, rising juniors, are working with Walkup Professor of Chemistry Preston Miles to develop analytical methods to test for levels of the herbicide Atrazine in surface water such as creeks or streams. Atrazine, which kills broad-leaf weeds, is one of the most popular herbicides in America. It's been used for more than a decade and has built up in the environment. Though it's not an immediate threat to humans, Atrazine does affect amphibians. At relatively low concentrations it can feminize frogs, creating a gender imbalance in frog populations that's bad for reproduction rates. Abbott and Angel plan to dissect crayfish to examine them for significant levels of Atrazine.
They're also researching the heavy metal uptake trees experience in soil that's been treated with reprocessed sewage. They take samples of soil, twigs, and leaves, which they crush and boil into a wet ashen. Then they analyze the ashen for lead, copper, zinc and cadmium, using an atomic absorption spectrometer.
"It's great because I'm not a chemistry majorI'm a philosophy major," says Angel, from Campbellsville, Ky., of his research experience. "It's pretty rare for a school to let someone with a focus in humanities research things that interest them. I've learned a lot this summersomething every day."
Adds Abbott of LaGrange, Ky., "It's a good experience for me because I'm a chemistry major, and it's good to have a background in research," he says. "Hopefully this will give me a better chance of being accepted to an REU [Research Experiences for Undergraduates] program next summer. And playing croquet at Dr. Miles' house is a plus."
Megan Dailey, a rising junior from Frankfort, Ky., is also conducting research on Atrazine. She's working with Amy Beilstein, visiting assistant professor of chemistry, to develop a new way of detecting pollutants in water. They hope that their method, which uses electrochemistry to detect the level of Atrazine in the water, will be more portable than the current method, which requires a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer"a big machine," according to Dailey.
Brian Grieb, a rising sophomore from Louisville, Ky., is working with Joe Workman, associate professor of chemistry. They're developing a new way of removing thiophenes from gasoline by using green chemistry, which is environmentally safe. Thiophenes are a contaminant and must be removed from gasoline. The way it's done currently, however, is not efficient. Grieb and Workman are using a catalytic system to remove the harmful molecules. Using a catalyst will reduce the waste that's normally created by this process.
"I've always been interested in research," Grieb says. "This is my first opportunity to try it. It's been a great learning experience. I look forward to continuing to do research in the future."
Grieb and Workman will present the results of their research at the American Chemical Society's meeting in November. They hope to publish their findings in a scientific journal such as the Journal of Organic Chemistry or the Journal of Green Chemistry.
"Being able to work with a student one-on-one is the best way to teach," Workman says. "It takes a semester to teach the basic principles of organic chemistry to a class, but I was able to teach Brian in a week. It's a nice break from normal class."
David Newbold, a rising junior from Versailles, Ky., is collaborating with Justin Houseknecht, visiting assistant professor of chemistry, this summer. They're researching the acetylation of alcohols. Their work involves reacting different alcohols with acetic anhydride, which they're doing in order to figure out the mechanism behind the reaction since some types of alcohol react unexpectedly. This research could have many possible applications in the future, and it might be useful in creating new medicines.
"I want to attend medical school, and this research is helping me prepare for that," says Newbold, who is a double major in chemistry and international studies.
Centre offers many opportunities for students to do collaborative research with faculty members during the academic year and the summer.
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